Friday, February 17, 2012

Live quietly and get a job!

For about the past six months, I've been a subscriber to gotandem, a ministry of "Back to the Bible". They send me daily devotions to read through my email or phone and I've found a number of them thought provoking and encouraging for my daily walk with Jesus. Here's a selection from one of messages I got today:
I've been just as guilty at times of equating and encouraging enthusiasm and initiative as evidence of a genuine heart for Jesus. I have urged people to find a way to "change the world," to "be on fire for God," and to "give 110 percent." (Okay, I've never said that last one. It's just mathematically impossible.)
Maybe it's a noble impulse to give our lives for Christ with some kind of all-or-nothing initiative to convert continents or get an ad on the Super Bowl or "storm the gates of hell," but this verse always brings me down to the earth I think God means for us to walk on as we follow Jesus:
"Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
Wow, that's counter-intuitive when you're on fire for God and trying to change the world. It won't look very good on the inspirational posters we're hoping to sell down at the Christian bookstore: "Live quiet!" "Leave people alone!" "Get a job!"
It's a long-term strategy: Live like Jesus for years in your neighborhood, being a respectable citizen, and people will notice over time.
It might not sound as exciting, but it's as real as it gets.
Agreed. Too many of those who want to "change the world for Jesus" can't get moved out of their mothers' basements. And even more have Christian lives which don't evidence much maturity or long-term faithfulness. So live quietly, get a job, leave people alone, and live like Jesus in your neighborhood is as timely a set of instructions as ever.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Repentance or retirement?

I ran across this idea from Jay Nordlinger, who writes "Impromptus" for National Review Online. Writing about Newt Gingrich, who apparently asked his 2nd wife for an "open marriage" so he could pursue his relationship with his current wife Callista with less guilt, Nordlinger wondered whether Newt had truly repented  of his past evil ways (as he has claimed), or simply retired, having decided that he's too old to chase another skirt. Who knows which is true in that case? I surely don't.

But I bring it up because I think that the same dynamic is at work in a lot of us Christians. We don't really mature so much as simply get too old and tired to sin in the same ways. We aren't less angry, we just don't have the energy to spend expressing it like we used to. We aren't less lustful, we just had our testosterone levels drop. We aren't less greedy, it's just that we already have most of what we want, and don't see a good opportunity to be truly rich and get the rest of it.
Oh gracious Lord, preserve me from confusing repentance with retirement, turning from sin with contentment at our current level of it. Help us to truly change our hearts. Amen.

Valentine's Celebration

So Karen and I have taken to celebrating Valentine's Day on virtually any day except the actual holiday. Who wants to fight that crowd? Yesterday was the harmonic convergence-our kids were at school, Karen didn't have any daycare kids, and it was my day off. So we went to Hobby Lobby and Michael's for knitting supplies for Karen and poked around the new Bass Pro in East Peoria for me. We ate at the bowling alley/restaurant at Bass Pro, because nothing says romance like a deep sea themed restaurant. The food was pretty good-I had a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings, Karen a barbequed chicken flatbread pizza, and we split an order of deep-fried crawfish. After 15 1/2 years of marriage, she's still the one who makes my heart beat fast, still the one person I'd rather spend a free day with, and still the biggest blessing God has given me as His adopted son.

Comforting Fictions

The human heart is desperately sinful. And one of the implications of that truth is that each of us comes fully equipped with a magnificent capacity for self-deception, believing what we wish were true rather than what is. Consider the following comforting fictions, which sooner or later will be revealed for what they are:
  • The United States can borrow more money than any nation ever has, while promising benefits to future generations of Americans that will require more than the sum total of world GDP to satisfy. Yet the US will never go bankrupt, nor will anyone get left holding the bag when it all finally collapses.
  • An Iranian nuke will not be a problem, even though their current President believes that the coming of the 12th Imam (The Mahdi) necessitates world war and Iran is currently the world's leading terrorism sponsor. 
  • Illegal immigration can continue unabated with no ill effects on our nation's existing poor and their ability to find and keep jobs. 
  • Homosexual marriage will not be devastating socially, nor will it be a Trojan horse for those wishing to drive the Church and its teachings from the public square. 
  • Scaling back American defense spending won't ever lead to instability and an increase in warfare. Nor will cutting back aid to Israel, Taiwan, and South Korea. 
  • Negotiations and, failing that, economic sanctions always serve to contain rogue states. 
  • The rising number of Muslims in Sweden, France, Holland, and England, will never lead to Islamic revolutions in those countries. 
Comforting fictions, all. Without a change in direction, all of these things will one day lead to disaster in one form or another. Yet it is not only in the realms of politics and foreign relations that pretty lies are hawked as truth. We all also tell pretty lies to ourselves in our spiritual lives. Consider these:
  • "No one will ever know." Yet God will, and you will. And the Holy Spirit within in you will fill your heart with guilt until you repent. Moreover, it's still true that "truth will out," and even the secret things have a way of becoming public. 
  • "Everybody sins." This is true, but too often this is not a recognition of what the Bible says, but an excuse for my behavior of which I'm unwilling to really repent.
  • "You're young. I thought that back when I was young too." This is insidious, because while there really are passions and ideas we mature out of as we grow in the faith, it's also true that sometimes our supposed "maturity" is really spiritual coldness masquerading as such.
  • "I can do this, and it won't hurt me." This is the driving idea behind prayerlessness, absence of Bible reading, refusal to attend church, and similar ideas. We do them and wonder why our spiritual life soon is as dry as the Sahara.
  • "I'm the exception." I hear this one expressed, usually implicitly, but sometimes explicitly by people in premarital counseling all the time as professing Christian men and women try to explain why they are okay with living and sleeping with their affianced. Yet it is a lie. God is not mocked, his commands are given for our good and His glory, and ignored to our destruction. 
I'm sure there are more. Maybe some of you can supply some others. But the point is not to simply recognize the lies we tell ourselves, but having seen them, to flee and live in the truth. What pretty lies are you living under?